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home : religion : religion October 18, 2019

9/8/2019 12:21:00 AM
When Bad Things Happen
Charles R. Swindoll — 'Life is  10% what happens to you and  90% how you react to it.'

Charles R. Swindoll — 'Life is 
10% what happens to you and 
90% how you react to it.'

Rev. Susan Smith Walker
Emanuel Reformed Church

In 1981 Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote the classic bestseller “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” after his son Aaron died of progeria, a fatal disease that makes children age rapidly and die in their teenage years as an elderly person. Rabbi Kushner says “It didn’t make sense. I had been a good person. I had tried to do what was right in the sight of God. I believed I was following God’s ways and doing His work. How could God do this to me?”

Many times, we can find no explanation for suffering. What does one person get cancer, and another does not when they had similar lifestyles? Why did the baby have a birth defect? Why did the man who missed the plane live and the others who were on time for the flight die in the crash? Why do people die in the prime of life from freak accidents or sudden illnesses?

Many of us have probably asked the same questions when we or others suffer unfairly in life. When we try to make sense out of suffering that seems so unfair, we can blame ourselves or others. “I must have done something to deserve this”, or “God is punishing them for some sin they have committed.” This explanation at least has some logic, but it makes suffering worse by adding guilt. Rabbi Kushner says the need to blame ourselves or others for intense suffering may be natural, but it doesn’t help and magnifies our pain.

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Sometimes we may turn our back on our faith because it has failed us. Our anger towards God for being unfair can block us from the very help we need. In times of intense suffering some people stop believing that God is real because “What kind of God would let this happen to me?” It is understandable that we may feel this way in our pain, but Jesus warned us we would suffer.

John 16:33 
33 I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.”

Rabbi Kushner says God does not send suffering to punish us or because He is unfair. He says “God does not cause our misfortunes. Some are caused by bad luck, some are caused by bad people, and some are simply an inevitable consequence of our being human and mortal, living in a world of inflexible natural laws.” Imperfection is part of the creation and God never promised us a life free from suffering. He has promised us we would not be alone in our pain and that we would be able to draw upon a source outside ourselves for the strength and courage we need to survive life’s tragedies and sorrow. We can turn to Him for help in overcoming our suffering because we can believe that God is as outraged by it as we are.” Our hope is that God can help us endure our suffering and give it meaning so we can find spiritual purpose in our pain.

Romans 8:28 
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Rev. Walker is the pastor of Emanuel Reformed Church and she can be reached at 828-962-8196 or

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